Former Indiana forward Will Sheehey played at Indiana from 2010-2014 and made a lot of memorable moments for the Hoosiers during his career.
Sheehey, who has recently retired from playing basketball, spoke at length with Inside the Hall about his career at Indiana, what it was like to play basketball overseas and his upcoming NBA 2K tournament, called “The Bounty,” to raise money for charity.
Here is our full Q & A with Sheehey:
Inside the Hall: What are you up to now? You’re in New York, right?
Will Sheehey: Yep. Yeah, I’m in New York now.
ITH: How has it been since you moved back and stopped playing basketball?
Sheehey: Yeah, I miss playing of course. I wish I was still playing, but sometimes you just gotta turn the page and move on.
ITH: Are you working right now or has the job been affected with how we’re all in quarantine right now?
Sheehey: Yeah, I got the job after quarantine started. We’re a software servicing company, so it’s not like we have to be in the office right now because we don’t have a physical product or anything, so yeah, I’m just working from home.
ITH: Were you in New York or overseas when things really started to escalate with COVID-19?
Sheehey: I was here. I just got back here just when the first couple of cases in major cities started to break out. So, I got back here before there were any restrictions or anything.
ITH: I know New York was sort of the epicenter of where the virus was the biggest, so how was it living there during all this?
Sheehey: Yeah, you know, you just had to stay inside more than anyone else is, and you had to wash your hands more and be more careful. Everyone is more timid, and there’s just an overall bad mood in the city. But, New Yorkers are resilient, and if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere, so I think everyone kind of has that attitude of nothing can stop me.
ITH: Was it hard to step away from basketball?
Sheehey: Yeah, it was difficult. I guess it helps that there are no other basketball being played, so we’re all in the same boat together kind of, but yeah it’s difficult. Just like anyone else who has a passion that kind of stops at some point.
ITH: Has it been hard adjusting to not really watching any live sports right now?
Sheehey: Yeah, I’m a big sports guy for sure. Basketball wise, I’m a huge fan of the game. I love watching the game and taking as much as I can from it, so yeah it’s difficult not being in it. I thought about being around the game and whatnot, but I just needed some time away from it to be honest.
ITH: Did you watch “The Last Dance” documentary?
Sheehey: I haven’t. I’ve watched a couple episodes, and it’s pretty good. I know people are a little controversial, obviously about Michael Jordan or whatever, but yep.
ITH: What was your experience like playing overseas, and what were some of the favorite places you played?
Sheehey: I loved playing over there. I loved everything about it. You know, just learning new languages, meeting new people, different cultures, I think basketball-wise it was fun, but more importantly, I just learned so much about the world and just how people are and how they interact, and my eyes were just kind of opened from that standpoint. Basketball-wise it was OK, you know, the basketball over there isn’t as great as it is here. Everybody wants to be in the NBA of course, so you kind of have to swallow your pride and make the best of it.
I loved playing in Portugal. It was great. Then playing with Jordan (Hulls) for a bit as well, although I was injured and never got to step on the floor, but just kind of being around him as an adult and going through it with him in different countries and learning from him was fun.
ITH: When you played at Indiana, what was it like sort of struggling a lot in your freshman season, then going to back-to-back NCAA tournaments right after that?
Sheehey: Yeah, a big reason with that was because of Cody (Zeller) coming in, he made a big difference. All the guys that were on the team before got better, but he kind of changed the dynamic of everything. Obviously, with just how good of a player he is, and then everyone else just kind of complimented him all the way down the line. So, I think it was just the perfect storm of him committing, bringing what he needed to bring, and then all of us helping and just being good team guys who could feed him the ball and then he could feed off that. It was just a nice synergy that we all had and everyone had a nice role, and it was very clear and defined.
I think those two years were the perfect storm. If you’re a college basketball fan, that’s what you want. You want guys that are going to stick around for a little bit. You want guys that you know what they’re gonna bring everyday so you can pick your favorite guy on the team and get behind them. Those couple years, it doesn’t get much better. Obviously, if we would’ve won a national championship that would’ve been icing on the cake. Of course, that’s what we wanted, didn’t happen, but I felt like we did our best and we put on a good show.
ITH: I think every time IU gets set to play Purdue, I always see a gif pop up on Twitter of you flexing at their crowd. How much did you enjoy sort of taunting the opposing team?
Sheehey: I love talking shit. Like, I don’t care. If I feel like I’m better at something than someone, then I’ll talk shit, and if they’re better than me, then I want them to talk shit, too. My friends to this day and those guys on the team all they do with me is talk shit because that’s just how our conversations go. Like, they know that that’s what I like, and they can give it and they can take it. So, yeah, my friends to this day are good shit-talkers and I think coaches like that. I remember getting thrown out of a game once in college for shit-talking, and Crean was like, “Hey, I’m gonna tell everyone on the team that I’m gonna make you come in and run for days, so like when everyone asks, you have to tell them you’re in trouble, but I love that shit, keep it up. That’s what you bring to this team like that’s just who you are.”
I can’t help it, like some guys just are the way they are. Like Jordan (Hulls) for example, he’s just the nicest dude ever, and you can’t change him to be a bad dude, that’s just who he is. I’m just a shit-talker. I can’t help it, that’s just who I am.
ITH: When you flexed at the crowd, was that when you went a perfect 9-9 from the field?
Sheehey: Nah, that was the next year and we were just beating the shit out of them (Purdue). When I got there as a freshman, we were losing, and you know, it sucked, sure. But I just loved the guys that were on the team when I got there, and they would tell me like, “Hey, we’re gonna play this game.” It was my sophomore year, and they were like, “Hey, we’re going to play Purdue and we are probably going to beat them, but just remember that the past four years that I’ve been here, we’ve been getting our ass kicked and they did not let up.” Like if they could push it from 30 to 40, 20 to 30, they would do it, and they would be dancing and celebrating.
So, the time I flexed, we were beating the shit out of them, and I just remember being like I’m gonna have fun and run up the score because that’s what happened to the guys on the team before that. And that’s just part of sports, man, like sports are fun. You’re gonna win, you’re gonna lose, and you might as well have fun. I think in general, we kind of take it too seriously with that kind of stuff, like I’m not the first person to flex on a basketball court. But I think I just kind of became this villain for other teams just because I don’t know. I honestly don’t really know, but the fans kind of got behind me too of like “Oh, Will’s our shit-talker” or whatever, so I was just trying to bring it and have a little bit more fun. Everyone was too serious, so I was just like fuck it, I’m gonna flex.
ITH: I’m not sure if you saw, but this year, De’Ron Davis tied your record of going 9-for-9 in a game.
Sheehey: No I didn’t, but that’s cool, though. It sounds like he had a good game.
ITH: Yeah, unfortunately, they lost by 24. They weren’t too good on the road this season.
Sheehey: It’s tough to play on the road, man. No team is good on the road, you know, I think that’s another thing IU fans get all upset about, like “Ah, this team doesn’t win on the road.” Well, no team wins on the road. I don’t know many teams that can go and win on the road in college basketball. I mean, I think the reason IU is good is because they don’t lose at home. Teams that aren’t very good lose at home and on the road, but it’s hard to win on the road, and I don’t think fans really realize that. Because when you practice every single day in the same gym with the same balls and the same sneakers and the same feel, it’s just like if you work in an office and then go to a new office, you’re not going to be as efficient and not going to have the same comfort as the other people in the other office. So, the best team doesn’t always win, and that’s just sports.
ITH: I think I heard a story of you taking the mascots head at Evansville, so what’s the backstory to that?
Sheehey: Uhhhh, yeah. We played in Evansville because we did like a home and away, and we were over there and the guys on the team knew I liked to talk shit and whatever, so they would say like “Will you won’t go do this or you won’t go talk shit to the best player”, just dumb stuff. So, I think I saw the mascot’s head and they were just like, “Hey, go scare Crean with it” or something. I just remember going into their equipment room, and it was open, it’s not like I — I mean, I guess I kind of did steal it — but it was open, and I just put the mascot’s head on. When we went into shootaround, and I still had the mascot’s head on, and everyone thought that was really funny. I wore it for a good amount of time until Crean got pissed and was like, “take it off, we gotta be more serious.” I never really like that kind of stuff, like you gotta keep it light. It’s not like because I wore the mascot’s head I was gonna play like garbage or not care about the game. I think everyone’s kind of just too tense, so I just tried to lighten the mood with the mascot.
ITH: I know you have this 2K tournament coming up (On May 23), so what was the idea behind that and how did you set it up?
Sheehey: Yeah, my buddy who went to IU, his name is Josh Hopkins, we’ve been friends since IU days and him and I always bounce ideas off each other, and he suggested doing a video game tournament since there are no sports going on right now. We thought we could get the IU guys together and create some fan engagement and get a sponsorship and make it for a charity event and give back because it’s a tough time for everyone. So, we just wanted to bring a little joy and lighten the mood for everyone because I like to lighten the mood.”
ITH: Has the response been good so far and are you expecting a decent turnout for it?
Sheehey: I think the tournament could be better. I think one of the things is I’m old. I don’t know how many people my age play 2K. I think the younger generation plays different games, but I just figured basketball-wise, we can get some basketball guys to play and engage and talk about the game, so that’s where we’re at. I think the sign-ups could be better but we’ve had a lot of traction with people who just want to join in and stream and listen to it and be a part of it. So, we’re excited for people just to come on board and ask as many questions as they want. It’s going to be streamed on Twitch, so we’ll have a COVID relief donation on there as well, so yeah, it’s cool, man, and I hope everyone tunes in and has an enjoyable day.
ITH: Have you been practicing for it?
Sheehey: No, I haven’t, personally. But, you know, I’m a gamer, so when it comes down to it, I’ll either lose by 50 or I’ll sneak it out.
ITH: Do you have a favorite team you prefer to play with?
Sheehey: I was kind of thinking about that the other day, actually. I’m gonna go for the best team, so whatever the best rated team gives me the best chance to win. I guess the Lakers maybe? Maybe the Nets I guess because everyone is healthy on the team in the video game. I don’t know, whoever the best team, so I guess the Lakers.
ITH: I know you have some former IU teammates doing the tournament with you, too. Whenever I talk to guys that play at IU when you played, they talk about how close the group was. What was that like to be a part of a team like that?
Sheehey: Yeah I think winning cures all. So the players that I played with when we won a bunch of games, like we kind of stick together because it’s always good vibes and everyone knew their role and did their thing. The teams that lose, no one really wants to talk to each other because it’s just like bad taste, you didn’t accomplish what you wanted. So, I think everyone thinks that their experiences are better and their friendships are closer with teams that win, and that’s true. You gotta win to think about how much fun you had. You just have to put the bad memories and losses behind you and try to move on.
So, I think the best teams definitely have the best bonds because winning is not easy and winning is tough, and you just kind of have to sacrifice sometimes and you gotta listen to someone say something that you don’t like and you just deal with because that’s what it takes. That’s what people are talking about with this Michael Jordan documentary, like Michael Jordan was kind of a jerk, but you can’t just be a bunch of nice guys and win. I don’t know a team that was ever just a bunch of nice dudes and didn’t fight and didn’t compete and didn’t scrap and ended up being a championship team. I don’t know if that exists. I hope it does. It sounds nice. But to me, it doesn’t exist.
Filed to: Will Sheehey